The militant leadership was surprised by the scale of the operation
Exactly a month has passed since October 7, when Hamas militants staged a surprise attack on Israel. Now we have managed to restore the picture of the tragic events. Hamas' secret orders for the attack were transmitted at the last minute to avoid the slightest leak.
The first orders for the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 were given before 4 a.m.: Anyone attending regular training and not planning to attend morning prayers at their regular mosques had to go and pray, The Guardian reports.
An hour later, as the sky over Gaza began to lighten and the congregation began to disperse, new instructions were given. They were also simple and were passed down mainly by word of mouth: take your weapons and all the ammunition you have and gather in certain places.
But still no one was told what was about to happen. Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, the largest operation launched by Hamas since the Islamist organization took control of Gaza in 2007, remained secret.
The plan had been formulated by a handful of seasoned veteran Hamas leaders and was still unknown to the people whose violence was about to destroy any fleeting sense of calm or progress toward new stability in the Middle East. This was also unknown to Israel's vaunted military and intelligence services, continues The Guardian.
The decision to issue verbal instructions to thousands of Hamas fighters scattered among Gazan's 2.3 million residents was the latest in a series of moves designed to deceive one of the world's most powerful surveillance systems and keep any knowledge from a network of spies of what might be happening. – about to happen.
Instructions cascaded through Gaza, first to “battalion” commanders of a hundred or more men, then to platoon commanders of 20 or 30 men, who told squad leaders leading a dozen, who relayed the message to friends, neighbors and relatives who joined them in the two-week exercise held at dozens of locations in the enclave.
Only after the people had gathered were more ammunition and more powerful weapons distributed. Many had handled such weapons in previous months and returned them to Hamas arsenals after each training session. Soon the militants had hand and rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns, sniper rifles and explosives with them.
It was 6 am on October 7th. The sun rose and the final orders were given. Now they were written down: the men would burst through gaps that would soon be blown up or breached through Gaza's $1 billion perimeter fence, and attack Israeli soldiers and civilians on the other side.
This account of the early moments of the October 7 terrorist attacks in Israel is drawn from a variety of sources, including meetings with Israeli intelligence officials, experts, sources with direct knowledge of interrogation reports of Hamas operatives captured during the attacks, and material published by Hamas and the Israeli military .
Although many of the claims are difficult to verify and have been disputed, respected and independent Hamas experts have called the account plausible.
This underscores the scale of the operation's planning and partly explains the numerous failures of Israeli security forces. which led to the death of 1,100 of their civilian compatriots and 300 security forces, writes The Guardian.
One factor was the sheer number of those who passed through the fence – according to some estimates, up to 3,000 fighters. Civilians also poured out of Gaza in general chaos, emboldened by the slow response of Israeli security forces.
Written orders explained to Hamas units the exact plan drawn up by two men who Israel believed were the main organizers of the attack: Yahya Sinwar, the general head of Hamas in the enclave, and Mohammed Deif, commander of the Hamas al-Qassam military brigades and the elite Nukhba units.
Each unit was assigned a separate goal: a military base, kibbutz, road or city. Often their orders were accompanied by maps detailing defenses and key locations within their targets, based on information received from sympathizers working in Israel, the sources said. It is believed that the rave party, where 260 people died, was not among the original targets.
Three tasks were given to different units. The first group was ordered to destroy the small and unprepared Israeli military bases around Gaza or attack civilians in their homes.
Hamas blames many acts of violence against civilians for violence and atrocities, including rape and torture, – “criminals” who followed the attacking militants. The IDF released an interview with the captured attacker, who said “the mission was to kill everyone we saw.” The attacker then described how he shot the children.
Other units were ordered to defend the positions against Israeli forces when they arrived, often setting up ambushes along key roads. Sources said it was not a suicide mission because the death of the attackers was not an integral part of the operation, a point of Islamic law that the operation's planners carefully took into account, The Guardian notes.
A third group of units was tasked with capturing as many hostages as possible and delivering them to the gaps in the fence, where special units were waiting to take the hostages to a huge tunnel complex under Gaza. It is believed that more than 240 people are being held here, including infants, children and the elderly, as well as military personnel. So far, only four have been freed and one hostage rescued.
Israeli security officials believe that Hamas's political leadership abroad was not informed of the details of the operation, nor were Hamas's sponsors in Iran, although both were likely aware that something was being planned. “It was a very tight circle,” a source close to Hamas told Reuters last month.
Hamas officials said planning for the attack began two years ago, following Israeli police raids on Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest site. Israeli sources say the time frame was shorter – perhaps a year or 18 months – and that during this period efforts were made to bolster Israeli belief that Hamas had shifted its focus from violence against Israel to economic development in Gaza.
The exact role of various Hamas leaders in the attack has yet to be established, but it is clear that Sinwar and Deif played a central role in its planning, writes The Guardian.
Deif means “guest,” referring to the 58-year-old's constant movement to avoid detection by Israel. A Hamas member since his 20s, the former science student led a wave of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians in the early 1990s and another a decade later. Deif may have been maimed in one of Israel's many assassination attempts, and his wife and young family were killed in an airstrike in 2014. Israeli officials described Deif, whose real name is Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri, as “the walking dead.”
Sinwar, 61, also one of the founders of Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement), spent 23 years in Israeli prisons for killing Israeli soldiers before being released among more than 1,000 prisoners exchanged in 2011 for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier captured Hamas five years earlier.
According to one Israeli former investigator who interviewed Sinwar at the facility, Sinwar refused to talk to any Israelis while in prison and personally punished those who did by pinning one man's face to a makeshift stove. “He is 1000% dedicated and 1000% brutal, a very, very tough person,” the investigator said.
After his release, Sinwar said his experience taught him that the capture of Israeli soldiers was the only way to free prisoners. A journalist who met Sinwar a decade ago told The Guardian that the Hamas leader was so focused on this goal that it was as if “the world did not exist outside his eyeballs.”
Analysts said other goals of the Oct. 7 attacks likely included halting efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, further undermining the Palestinian Authority, diverting attention from Hamas's inability to provide services or break the blockade of Gaza, and provoking a violent response from Israel, which mobilized would be his own supporters in Gaza. West Bank and other places.
Five days after the attack, a Hamas leader said it was a preemptive strike after the organization learned that Israeli troops were preparing a major offensive on Gaza after the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
Many experts – and Israeli security sources – said Hamas was surprised by its success. The slow response by Israeli forces allowed some units to make multiple trips into Israel from Gaza to return more hostages, Israeli officials said. According to Israeli and Hamas sources, some civilians who crossed into Israel were also captured, complicating ongoing rescue efforts and negotiations.
Hamas supplied the attackers with GoPro cameras to film the attack. Some of the gruesome images uncovered by Israeli investigators show sadistic abuse and murder, The Guardian writes. An official montage of such footage released by Hamas shows terrified people pleading for their lives and a family dog shot to death. The release of these images through official Hamas channels suggests that the October 7 attack was, at least in part, “propaganda in reality,” terrorism experts said.
There is no evidence that Hamas hoped to hold territory or provoke a wider uprising, although some fighters were ordered to fight to the end. Despite this, a significant number of them surrendered. Israeli officials have not said how many there were, only that the prisoners were a useful source of information.
Hamas did order some of the attackers to retreat as Israeli forces began to rally and many senior commanders returned to Gaza. This meant that although many members of the Qassam Brigades and Nukhba units were killed, most of the leaders remained alive. Some have since been killed in the IDF's Gaza offensive, which has so far claimed more than 10,000 lives, including more than 4,000 children, according to local health authorities.